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The art of startup valuations with Brian Ellerman

Welcome back to investor’s corner,  this week we’re going to talk with Brian Ellerman, angel investor and the founding director of Arizona FORGE.

As both a technology scout and angel investor, Brian brings a very impartial and diplomatic view to help entrepreneurs navigate early-stage investments.

Brian Ellerman

Brian Ellerman is the Founding Director of FORGE . To see his full bio, scroll to the end of this article. 

Lessons about the art of valuations:

  • Listen to and take into consideration expert investor perspectives: Active angels are seeing 100 or more presentations a month, and as a result, they know what valuations are normal, expected, and reasonable.
  • Ensure you are able to explain your valuation:   Being able to back up the value of the company with evidence will be extremely important, especially if you are outside the realm of normal, expected, or reasonable valuations.
  • There needs to be room for growth: As Brian said, smart investors know not to eat the whole apple. If an investor takes half of the company, what’s left for the entrepreneur?    “The best investors have a very open dialog with founders about a fair valuation and reasonable sized portion”.   Ensure that as you’re putting together your valuation and offer you leave room for growth.

Brian Ellerman’s Bio

Finding Opportunities and Resources to Grow Entrepreneurs (FORGE)
• Inspire and cultivate entrepreneurial thinking (FORGE’d at UA)
• Advance the entrepreneurial ecosystem (FORGE at Roy Place)
• Drive scale-up/launch acceleration (FORGE Ahead)

Angel investor (https://angel.co/brian-ellerman?public_profile=1) in 100+ and advisor for dozens of startups globally. Member of international Together. Health Steering Committee. Serve on various advisory boards, and founded the Tucson STEM Community.

Studied biology, chemistry, and mathematics at Wabash College, earned a BS cum laude in clinical pathology at Marist College, an MS in Management Information Systems from the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management, Master of Legal Studies (ongoing) at University of Arizona’s Rogers College of Law, and studies toward a PhD in Organization and Management with a Specialization in Leadership at Capella University. Native Arizonan.

Episode Mentions:

  • Books and Papers:
  • Organizations:

Connect with Brian Ellerman here:


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Mentor Me Live with Mica Kinder


Mica Kinder

Today on Mentor Me Live, we are going to tackle fear. As entrepreneurs, we are constantly facing our fears. The fear of running out of money, fear of hiring the wrong person, fear of customers rejecting us, the fear of our skills not being enough to accomplish our gigantic visions.

A recent HBR research study of 65 entrepreneurs noted that for entrepreneurs, courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the ability to persist in spite of it.

Here are a few tips on how to be a courageous entrepreneur:

  1. Identify the sources of your fear – If you don’t know where your fears are coming from, how can you address them? We must strengthen our self-awareness and dig deep to resolve root cause personal issues holding us back.
  2. Next, we need to break our vision into small and achievable milestones. This allows us to take action, feel a sense of accomplishment, and reduce procrastination.
  3. Utilize Ulysses contracts and time commitments to force forward motion. If you haven’t yet ready Annie Duke’s “Thinking in Bets” go grab a copy. It will change how you make decisions.

Each of us brings our own fears to the table when we found a startup, but as Winston Churchill once said:  

 “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

The power of individuals, of entrepreneurs, and of startups lies in their ability to change, to adapt, and to transform themselves to ultimately accomplish their life-saving vision.

Put your fears aside and get back to work changing the world.

Connect with Mica Kinder here:


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Shoutouts and Mentions:


Insulin Now

Nail it, then scale it with Eric Bockman


Eric Bockman

This Mentor Me Live episode features Eric Bockman, founder of Auction Roo.  He has an early-stage idea to transform how auction houses distribute merchandise to customers.  Auction Roo does not currently have any paying customers, and Eric is looking for support in finding a business-minded co-founder and narrowing focus to get his first paying customer.

The key lessons for entrepreneurs here are:

  •  Self-awareness — Eric has a very strong awareness of his own strengths and weaknesses.  As a result, is will shorten the amount of time it takes him to find a suitable co-founder.  After you clearly understand yourself, the next step is to move toward ensuring you have a strong founding team. Entrepreneurship is a team-sport, please don’t try to ride this ride alone.
  • Don’t worry about scalability of your idea until you have satisfied customers. In Auction Roo’s case, they don’t yet have any satisfied customers.  As a result, their next milestone is to acquire one satisfied customer.  It likely looks like one auction buyer that has successfully had a small number of deliveries using Auction Roo; a returning customer is likely to be satisfied.   At this early stage, it’s too risky to send an email blast out to 14k auction buyers.  This is risky to both Auction Roo and the auction house.  Shrinking the size of the initial experiments down to 10-20 customers is probably more appropriate and will help the team move more rapidly.

I look forward to seeing you next week!

Connect with Eric Bockman here:


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Zach Yentzer: Tucson Young Professionals, Tipping Point, Community Building

Listen to Zach talk about Tucson Young Professionals, Tipping Point and Community Building.

Strong investor relationships with Dr. Marty Fox


Marty Fox

Dr. Fox is an active early-stage investor and has assisted numerous businesses by providing capital and guidance. He has also founded several successful businesses and has served at the executive and board level for multiple companies. He is a former adjunct instructor at the Eller College of Business of the University of Arizona and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology.

Marty was extremely gracious with his time and insights, and here are some of his most important suggestions for entrepreneurs:

  • Don’t take money from someone you don’t have a strong relationship with. To support that, here are three tactics for deepening relationships:
    1. Practice empathy – Similar to how you take the time to deeply understand your customers, you should also take the time to deeply understand your investors. Why are they investing? What’s important to them? What outcomes are they after? Do you have the right chemistry to work together for the next decade?
    2. Give consistently, receive occasionally – When we are consistently giving of ourselves it ensures we’re surrounded by a support network that truly cares and wants to see us be successful. Think about times when others have behaved in this way: How did YOU feel?

      “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, ‘What’s in it for me?‘” – Brian Tracy, Author

    3. Show and prove you think of others – Simply remembering some small detail or important date can deepen those personal connections between two people. Perhaps an unexpected call or text from you “Hey, I was able to apply that suggestion you made to me last week and will let you know how it goes. Thank you!”. Shifting our lens from being constantly focused inward to being frequently focused outward will do wonders for deepening our relationships.
  • Avoid over-diversification – My recommendation for entrepreneurs is that they get uncomfortably narrow about your first early adopter customer segment. The more specific you can get, the faster you can move. To hear a great entrepreneur working through getting specific, check out the Mentor Me Live episode with Aaron Gopp from Patter.

See you next week!

Devon Underwood: Recruitment, Talent Strategy, and Workforce Development

Listen to Devon talk about recruitment, talent strategy, and workforce development.

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